Bobby Cox … you are ejected … please leave the bench

Ignore, for a second, all the clap trap surrounding the Barry Bonds/Hank Aaron home run chase and focus on a far more important milestone that is on the verge of being surpassed. Yes, it is Bobby Cox speeding past John McGraw for the yellow jersey in the race for most career ejections.

At this point in my column I was going to point out my surprise that this chase hadn’t yet caught the media’s imagination. Then, to my horror, I saw an article from ESPN’s Jayson Stark on Cox’s ejection record that has stolen my thunder a little. Never mind—you’ll enjoy this column far more than Jayson’s!

To be fair, as Cox has crept closer to the magical 132 the Atlanta press’ interest has been piqued. The mainstream view is one of slight embarrassment or disdain. I don’t quite get it … this is a record that needs to be celebrated; after all everyone enjoys watching a good baseball hullabaloo—unless you’re on the receiving end that is.

Baseball seems to have a bit of a reputation for players being more aggressive to the umps than they are in other sports, such as the NBA or NFL. But the argey-bargey that graces the diamond is child’s play compared to some of the shenanigans that happen in, say, soccer, where if you have ever had the good fortune to witness a match in Argentina it isn’t uncommon to see the referee chased from the field by a braying mob!

The Hall of Shame

Let’s cut to the chase and take a look at the glorious hall of shame:

Manager              Career ejections
John McGraw          131
Bobby Cox            130
Leo Durocher         124
Earl Weaver          98

There it is in black and white—Bobby Cox is on the verge of ignominy as sole possessor of the trophy for he-who-has-been-tossed-the-most. On current pace he is going to beat McGraw before the All-Star break—an impressive feat, although according to the data the 130 excludes his two World Series ejections so he is technically ahead … no need to worry about the details I suppose! However, the above list is for career ejections, so includes both players and managers. Obviously managers get thrown out of game much more than players do because whenever a player starts arguing with one of the umps a hot-headed manager is likely to leap from the dug out to join in.

John McGraw, the current career ejections leader was thrown out 14 times as a player, so if we are looking purely at manager ejections Cox skipped into the lead some time ago. Here is the top 10:

Manager           Manager Ejections
Bobby Cox         130
John McGraw       117
Earl Weaver       97
Leo Durocher      95
Frankie Frisch    82
Paul Richards     80
Tony La Russa     73
Clark Griffith    62
Joe Torre         60
Lou Piniella      58

One thing that sticks out is how far Cox is in the lead! He is in the process of setting a record that may not be surpassed for another lifetime. Tony LaRussa, the next most ejected active manager has half as many ejections as Bobby Cox has.

Cox’s Big Black Book

Let’s see how his ejection record breaks down by year:
There is little doubt that Cox has become more bellicose with age. In his first stint as a manager between 1978 and 1985 he got more heated up towards the end of his reign. However, when he rejoined the Braves in 1990 he was a paragon of calmness for the first few seasons but then as the millennium approached started to work up a rage that would put a small despotic country to shame.

Indeed, his most fiery season was 2001 when he managed to get tossed 11 times. To put that statistic into perspective that is once every 15 games, or a little over once a fortnight—some going. I mean what the hell are you doing? How often have you had a call reversed? Exactly.

Reasons for Cox’s Tossing?

Getting ejected 130 times is impressive in itself—it is practically a whole season’s worth. But let’s break down see on what grounds umpires throw out Cox the most:

Reason                Number
Balls and strikes     52
Safe/out call         16
Check swing           8
Called third strike   7
Balk call             5
Tag call              4
Bench Jockeying       2
Other                 36

It won’t surprise Braves nuts that Bobby most often gets ejected for arguing balls and strikes. It’s a known maxim that if you see Cox leave the dug out to throw in his two cents worth over a balls and strikes call he doesn’t stand much chance of retaking his seat on the bench. What about some of the more bizarre incidents that have led to his being ejected?

Bizarre Ejections
1. Fight after HBP
2. Home run/foul pole call
3. Spitting in ump's face during argument
4. Protesting attempt to speed up game

My personal favorite was the incident in 1993 against the Giants when Cox went into battle in an effort to get the game sped up. I wasn’t there so I don’t know why—and for a change Google is stumped too.

The home run/foul pole call was actually recorded against the Reds in 1997 but reminded me of a game I saw in 2005 when amazingly Cox avoided being tossed despite arguing vociferously on a Brian Jordan home run against the Nationals at RFK. For those had the misfortune to watch, Jordon belted a home run to left field that snuck over the wall just to the right of the foul pole. From my seat close to third base it was a clear home run and the third base umpire signalled for Jordon to circle the bags.

Then out came Frank Robinson to contest the decision and before you know it the home plate umpire overruled and called the ball foul. Nothing winds Bobby up more than an overturned call against his team so he marched out to the umps and gave them what-for. I expected him to get tossed but after some wild gesticulation he trooped off back to the dug out without being ejected.

Cutting the Data Differently

We have the data so we may as well use it. Here is Bobby’s record by opponent:

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.
Team                 Number
Phillies             13
Mets                 11
Giants               9
Marlins              9
Dodgers              8
Astros               7
Expos                7
Padres               7
Cubs                 6
Reds                 6
Cardinals            5
Diamondbacks         5
White Sox            5
Yankees              4
Blue Jays            3
Brewers              3
Nationals            3
Rockies              3
Tigers               3
Athletics            2
Mariners             2
Orioles              2
Pirates              2
Red Sox              2
Royals               2
Angels               1
Rangers              1
Twins                1

It’s no surprise to see fellow NL East rivals heading this list with arch enemy Philadelphia in top spot. Another record that Cox is on the verge of setting is getting tossed against every team in the bigs. As things stand he needs to get ejected against both the Indians and Devil Rays before joining that exclusive club.

And here is the list cut by umpire:

Umpire                Number
Bob Davidson          5
Angel Hernandez       4
Tom Hallion           3
Terry Cooney          3
Randy Marsh           3
Joe West              3
Jeff Kellogg          3
Hunter Wendelstedt    3
Gary Darling          3
Derryl Cousins        3
Bruce Froemming       3
Bill Welke            3
Bill Hohn             3
On 2                  24
On 1                  42

Do some umps toss more than others? Or does Cox just get under the nose of Davidson and Hernandez more often? Who knows? Who cares?

Ejection Frequency

Interestingly one record that Cox hasn’t yet claimed is most ejections in a season. That honor still belongs to John McGraw who was thrown out 13 times in 1905. Cox’s record is 11 in 2001 although his pace this year suggests he could challenge McGraw’s and claim the ejection triple crown!

A different way to look at the data is to see how often managers get tossed.

Manager               Games per ejection
Paul Richards         12
Frankie Frisch        14
Earl Weaver           15
Bobby Cox             18
Leo Durocher          21
John McGraw           24
Clark Griffith        24
Lou Piniella          27
Tony La Russa         32
Joe Torre             34

Hot-head Paul Richards, who was at the helm of the Orioles in the 1950s, leads the list at an ejection every 12 games. In fact he holds the single season AL record for 12 ejections in 1956—one behind McGraw’s NL number. Bobby’s career average is a respectable (in this company) 18 with Tony LaRussa looking positively saint-like on 32.

I have it on good authority that this list isn’t quite complete. Apparently Bill Dahlen managed the Brooklyn Dodgers between 1910 and 1913 and over the course of 615 games was tossed a jaw-dropping 65 times—that’s an average of once every 9.5 games.

World Series Ejections

Fact 1: The last three people to have been tossed from a World Series game have all been called Cox. Fact 2: Surprisingly, only two of them are Bobby—the other was St. Louis pitcher Danny Cox, who was thrown out for arguing balls and strikes against Minnesota in 1987. Anyway, here is the complete list (both players and managers):

Year      Name              Team          Lg      Reason
1905      Hughie Jennings   Detroit       AL      Argued a caught stealing
1907      Bill Donovan      Detroit       AL      Refused to end talk with 3B coach
1910      Frank Chance      Chicago       NL      Argued a home run call
1910      Tom Needham       Chicago       NL      Argued a safe call at home plate
1919      Ray Schalk        Chicago       AL      Argued a tag out play
1919      Jimmy Smith       Cincinnati     NL      Argued from 3B coaching box
1933      Heinie Manush     Washington    AL      Touched umpire during argument
1934      Joe Medwick       St Louis      NL      Fight; then removed for protection
1935      Charlie Grimm     Chicago       NL      Bench jockeying
1935      Woody English     Chicago       NL      Bench jockeying
1935      Tuck Stainback    Chicago       NL      Bench jockeying
1935      Del Baker         Detroit       AL      Argued pickoff play at 3B
1952      Ralph Branca      Brooklyn      NL      Bench jockeying
1959      Chuck Dressen     Los Angeles   NL      Argued a ball / strike call
1969      Earl Weaver       Baltimore     AL      Argued a ball / strike call
1970      Clay Carroll      Cincinnati    NL      Bench jockeying
1976      Billy Martin      New York      AL      Threw ball from dugout onto field
1985      Joaquin Andujar   St Louis      NL      Argued a ball / strike call
1985      Whitey Herzog     St Louis      NL      Argued a ball / strike call
1987      Danny Cox         St Louis      NL      Argued a ball / strike call
1992      Bobby Cox         Atlanta       NL      Argued a check swing call
1996      Bobby Cox         Atlanta       NL      Argued a safe call on a steal

It’s no surprise to see Cox with yet another record: Namely, the only person (player or manager) to have been ejected twice from World Series games.

The first was in the ninth inning of game three of the 1992 World Series for throwing a batting helmet onto the field at the Toronto Skydome. Cox was trying to slam the helmet against the lip of the dugout. It missed, trickled on to the field and resulted in an ejection.

The second was in the final game of the 1996 World Series, protesting an out call of Mark Lemke on a steal at second base. Although video replay showed Lemke was safe, the umpire called Lemke out, and Cox was tossed for arguing the call.

Final Thoughts

Ejections have been part of the baseball since the dawn of the modern game and no doubt will continue to be so. Cox calls his landmark embarrassing. That’s possible, although I’d also call it Machiavellian entertainment. Vive la ejection!

References & Resources
Thanks to David Vincent and the SABR Listserv mailing list for yet another superb example of why it is worth stumping up the moolah for membership. Also a big thumbs up to Baseball Almanac for the World Series list.

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What was the earliest in a game Bobby Cox got ejected?